Flu hits Tennessee hard

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Source: Centers for Disease Control

Not only is the 2022 flu season starting early, it’s also showing signs that it could be unusually dangerous, according to public health officials.

And Tennessee is right in the center of its crosshairs.

Influenza transmission in the Volunteer State is currently classified as “very high,” which is the highest category for flu activity used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Only three weeks ago, no states were seeing “very high” rates of transmission. As of this week, however, Tennessee is one of seven states — all in the Southeast U.S. — to have experienced an explosion in flu cases. 

Usually, the flu season doesn’t begin until December or even January.

Even more alarming, there have already been an estimated 1,300 deaths attributed to the flu, including at least three children. 

Also, flu-related hospitalization rates haven’t been this high since the 2009 pandemic of swine flu, according to the CDC. Approximately 23,000 people have been hospitalized out of the estimated 2.8 million who have contracted the disease. 

This year’s flu season is taking place in the midst of two other viral threats that cause respiratory illness. Children across the country have been battling Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, while COVID-19 continues to sicken millions of adults.  

For most people, the flu means a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and several miserable days spent in bed.  

For others, however, it can mean a trip to the hospital and even death. 

The CDC estimates that the flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.

You can schedule a flu shot at the Knox County Health Department by calling 865-215-5070. Or, you can talk to your doctor about getting one, and most local pharmacies provide flu shots.

It’s also a good idea to practice the same steps to avoid catching (or spreading) the illness that we learned during the COVID pandemic: wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask, and try to avoid contact with sick people.

Published on November 14, 2022.